I do not remember what is mentioned in the Temple’s history (ஸ்தல புராணம்) about this. May be it is mentioned that from the very beginning, the Deity had the name of ‘Rangarajan’ and the place also had the name of ‘Srirangam’ But I remember one thing, that because it is a Vaishnava temple, Vigneshwara’s name and what He did is not mentioned there. The Chola king, by name Dharmavarma, who was ruling Chola region, during the time of Sri Rama, ( the first ‘Prakaram’ after the Sanctum Sanctoram is called ‘Dharmavarman Prakaram’) was doing ‘Thapas’ (penance), that the family deity of Ikshvaku dynasty should come to his country; When Vibeeshana came here with the Vigraham, he placed it down while taking some rest and thus it got installed there. I remember that this is how it is mentioned in the Temple’s history.

But the story that became famous in the world is the one that says the Vigraham got installed there due to Vigneshwara’s ‘Leela’. Since this version joins the hands of Vaishnavam and Saivam, the two great divisions of our religion , it is soothing to the mind. The way the story goes further also shows the Truthfulness of the story.

How did the story go? Vigneshwara ran away to the top of the Rockfort and Vibeeshana chased Him, and finally punched His head with his fist. To indicate this, the Pillaiyar statue in the Rockfort temple top, has a mark on its head. It is rare to see Vigneshwara on top of any hill; therefore it fits in here that Vigneshwara ran away to the top of the hill to escape from Vibeeshana and stayed put there.

There is one more correlation in the connection of Vigneshwara with SriRanganathar. Kaveri who was closed up by Agasthya inside his Kamandalu, was also released and allowed to flow into a river by Vigneshwara only. He came in the disguise of a crow and tipped the Kamandalu. Sage Agasthya chased the crow and the crow became a Brahmachari. In the story of Vibeeshana also we have seen that Vigneshwara became a Brahmachari. Agasthyar also went after the Brahmachari with closed fist to punch him on his head. Before the sage could do it, the Brahmachari took His original form ( that of Vigneshwara). The sage regretted saying , “ Oh! Was I going to punch you? For this sin, I have to punch my own head” and with his two fists punched his own head on the two temples. He made that as a form of prayer for all the people, while praying before Vigneshwara.

As a crowning glory to the similarity between these two stories and the way they compliment each other, there is one more aspect connecting Mahavishnu, Kaveri and Vigneshwara. The place where sage Agasthya’s Kamandalu was tipped and Kaveri was released, is the foot of a gooseberry (நெல்லிக் காய் மரம்) tree, in a place called Sahyadhri, in the western ghats. This is the place of origin for river Kaveri. That gooseberry tree is none other than Mahavishnu! Perumal only stands there as a tree. A part of Vishnu Maya became Lobamudhra, and married Sage Agasthya, and became the river Kaveri, which became sage Agasthya’s Kamandalu Theertham.

When she flowed from the lotus feet of Bagavaan, He told her affectionately, “ Ganga also flows from my feet only. You are more dear to me than her and so while she also got the contact of my feet, I shall bless you to get the contact of my whole body. When you started you journey from my feet, you got the contact of my feet. When you start flowing as a big river, you will divide yourself into two parts and then join again later. At that time you will embrace me with both your hands.”

Beginning was made for the fulfillment of the above boon, by Vigneshwara with His act of tipping the sage’s Kamandalu. Therefore, in order to fulfill the boon completely, He installed ‘Rangaraja’ in the space between the two hands of river Kaveri in Srirangam. This looks very apt, is it not? ( in Tamil Periava says, புலவர்கள் பாஷையில் ( laughs) சாலப் பொருத்தம்தானே?).

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Another correlation is leveling up Saivam and Vaishnavam. I will explain. While Vibeeshana got the Vigraham of Vishnu after the destruction of Ravana, that Ravana also got the ‘Aathma Lingam’ from Parameshwaran. When he was taking it to Lanka, Sri Parameshwara had warned him that he should not keep it on the ground. That time also Pillaiyar only played a trick and saw to it that the ‘Aathma Lingam’ did not go out of Bharatha Dhesam. The place where the Lingam got installed is Gokarnam; it is situated below Goa, on the western seashore of Karnataka. It is an isle like Rameshwaram. Swami is called Mahabaleshwarar there. When Pillaiyar induced Ravana to place the Lingam on the ground with His trick, Ravana with all his strength (ராக்ஷச பலம்) tried to take it out but could not. As Swami’s shakthi overwhelmed Ravana’s. Swami is called Mahabaleshwarar. He who did not allow the elder brother to take the Lingam out of Bharatha Dhesam, would not allow the younger brother also to take Rangaraja out of the country, is it not? That is why our story is proved to be ‘Sathyam’!

To b continued……